red Riding Hood, Snow White either The little Mermaid, are some of the classic tales that have marked hundreds of generations for centuries, with which girls have followed roles of beauty and have idealized romantic love. However, these are a double-edged sword, since numerous sexist overtones and clear examples of violence against women are hidden among their plots.
Sandra Sabates has evidenced these signs in his new book, don’t tell me stories (Editorial Planet), in which he invites us to reflect with creative analogies on the deep-rooted learning that has been extracted over the years from these fairy tales. Narrating ten cases of real victims of gender violence, the journalist from La Sexta presents a totally different version of these literary traditions and warns that this book does not begin with “once upon a time”.
Q: ‘don’t tell me stories’ presents a very fine line between fiction and reality, in which cases of gender violence are combined with classic stories. How did the idea come about?
A: The idea comes from the story of Little Red Riding Hood, which is one of my favorites from when I was little and that over the years, over time, you realize that behind this story they are telling you the story of a rape.
And I quickly made the association with the victim at the hands of the San Fermines. Probably because it is one of the best known, most mediatic and controversial cases. Also at the time it was debated and discussed a lot in the media and has also allowed many changes.
As a result of that, I began to reread classic stories and, with another look, I realized that in the different stories there were also different forms of gender violence that were manifested sometimes in a more explicit way and others in a more subtle way.
It seemed interesting to me to make this parallelism, because in the end the classic tales are nothing more than a reflection of society at a certain moment and say how for centuries, because that gender violence that we continue to drag already existed and, what a day today, women continue to suffer in our country. And to do it through those real stories too.
Q: There are ten stories of victims of gender violence. How was the process of contacting them and listening to their harsh testimonies?
A: With some of them, for example, in the case of the victim of the herdI contacted her lawyer, or the case of the protagonist of child sexual abuse -illustrated in the story of donkey skin– which had already appeared in the media through that Save the Children campaign. He was the most direct contact.
To get in touch with the rest of the girls and with different profiles, because I wanted to show different forms of gender violence, I contacted associations such as the Federation of Progressive Women and with APRAM, which fights against Trafficking and Prostitution; the Ana Bella Foundation and the Cavas Foundation, which fights sexual assault and lends a hand to victims of sexual assault; Hello Wassu Foundationwhich fights against female genital mutilation.
They carry out this daily work of help, support, accompaniment, reconstruction of the victims and in this case they have lent me a hand to build bridges and serve as a link. It is a bit of a choral work because behind this book there are many women who have been collaborating.
The subject of the interviews has really been a hard moment, because you talk to these girls and sometimes we are talking about episodes that have happened years ago and the fact of bringing all these episodes back to the present, reliving it… You see that they continue to suffer, that They continue to have a hard time and it’s hard, it’s complicated.
Q: Are there any of these testimonials that have touched you the most?
A: All because at the time of telling the stories it has been hard. When they go through such complicated, hard and traumatic episodes, they first have to make the effort to assimilate it. Most of them have gone through many months, even years, of therapy to help them come to terms with what has happened to them. It is something that cannot be forgotten, that cannot be erased and then you have to be able to incorporate it yourself and try not to let it bother you too much so that you can continue living your normal life.
Also, considering that they are very young girls, that holds on to the future. They have those episodes sitting there and you’re asking them to bring it back to the present and revive it in some way. That is why I thank them so much for their collaboration in this book, because I know that they have made this effort and all of them have told me knowing that by telling their story they can help many other women, they can give tools to many other women that allow them to detect time that sexist violence.
We no longer want to be princesses or for the prince to come and rescue us
Q: Each of the stories evidences a different type of gender violence, such as gang rape, like that of ‘La Manada’, genital mutilation or labor exploitation. However, these are cases that unfortunately still occur on a daily basis.
A: Of course, the idea was that, to show the saying “don’t tell us stories”. This is happening in the 21st century, something that happened centuries ago and we are still at the same point because we have changed a lot. Obviously we have not evolved and we have taken many steps and we no longer recognize ourselves. Surely in many of these women, not in their personal and professional aspirations, we do not have the same ones.
We no longer want to be princesses in most cases or for the prince to come and rescue us. Let’s say we have overcome this, but that gender violence is still there and continues to weigh us down.
Q: A very important aspect that stands out in some cases, which is now being talked about much more, is the therapy that psychological and emotional violence exists. Is it a part of the fundamental process for the victims to recompose themselves?
A: They have to go through a process of reconstruction and recovery that is not easy. And most of them, all of them I would tell you, have gone through this recovery process. Behind it there is a psychological therapy that helps them to do this exercise of assimilating it and learning to place it in a space that does not bother you too much and that allows you to keep moving forward.
Not only to you, but also to the people around you who carry a certain feeling of guilt about the pain that their experience is causing to the people around them, their parents, their families, their friends. They are aware that in the end they are victims, but there are also some collateral victims of all this who are also suffering.
Q: As you said before, most of them have suffered these abuses, these attacks, at a very young age, when they were children or adolescents. Some women may feel identified with some type of violence that is shown and take the step of denouncing or giving that visibility.
A: These two things that you just mentioned are precisely the objective of this book and the objective with which all these girls have wanted to tell their story. On the one hand, to provide tools because for them it is important to provide these clues so that if many other women read their stories, they know how to detect it in time and set off alarms so that they detect this sexist violence in time and can avoid it. Something that did not happen to them. They did not have this information and suddenly they say “if I tell other women, surely this will help them so that the same thing does not happen to them”.
This is one of the main ideas, and the other is the message that all of them continuously send: denouncing the need to “don’t shut up”, to tell about it, because if you tell it, we will believe you, we will be able to lend you a hand and, Above all, we are going to be very aware that this visibility process is so necessary to say “here we have a problem and we have to act”.
The more women tell about it and report it, the first we can help them; and second, that we will be aware of what is happening and we can begin to act to eradicate this sexist violence.
We have many challenges ahead as a society in terms of the fight for equality
Q: Feminism has been taking to the streets for many years every March 8 and for decades countless advances have been made for women, for their rights. But, on a social and political level, what remains to be done?
A: Very much, without a doubt. This week that proposal was approved in Europe so that companies with more than 50 workers had to show transparency about the salaries of male and female workers and, if there was a difference in salaries between men and women, measures had to be put in place and it was approved with the vote. Those who disagreed were Vox and the Popular Partybut we keep fighting.
There we are talking about the wage gap, for example. But then we have some struggles that are main and the most urgent, especially because they are costing lives, which is that sexist violence, those murders that must be stopped once and for all. That is the great objective and the great challenge that we have as a society.
But then we have many other forms of violence that are there. We cannot allow ourselves that there are still so many women who are victims of trafficking in prostitution, whom they are enslaving because it is still a form of slavery with which they are trampling on their dignity and their integrity. We cannot allow ourselves to continue to have women who are victims of female genital mutilationthat they are raping us in a pack or chemical submission offences.
Instead of improving, it seems that many times we are taking steps backwards. We have many challenges ahead of us as a society in terms of the fight for equality to become a feminist society. And not only to continue advancing and continue fighting for the rights and freedoms of women and for that equality, but also that we must continue defending the rights that we have already conquered, because there are those negationist speeches of the extreme rightthat the only thing they want is for us to regress, for us to take steps backwards, we must avoid it.
Q: Do you think that one of the pillars to reach a solution would be education?
A: The education of everyone is essential, not just that of the little ones. We as a society have legal equality, but in the end we only change this by changing our mentality, our way of seeing things, getting rid of that culture, that macho tradition that we have imbibed since we were born.
What we have learned from education is part of our culture, it is that change of mentality that happens for us, but also for them, men and women. We must begin to educate the new generations so that they too begin to grow in equality, but now with these values.
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Sandra Sabatés: “We no longer want to be princesses or for the prince to come and rescue us”